You don’t have to look far to find evil.
Russia invaded Ukraine without provocation. Masses of civilians have been killed in Israel and Gaza, many more than the warriors. Millions are refugees because of racial and religious persecution and man-made food shortages. Journalists who report on gangsters and dictators are often murdered, but their killers are rarely punished. Reliable news sources report that Syria’s leader used chemical weapons on his own people. China has put approximately a million Muslims into concentration camps, and North Korea’s leader starves the population to build missiles.
Evil is not new. In the 20th century, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin killed millions. As far back as we can go in history, human beings have been doing awful things to each other.
Humanity has struggled to understand evil for just as long. Great minds have wrestled with it. I’m only a humble scribbler, an ordinary guy, not a professional theologian. You, like me, try to make sense of the world’s mysteries.
Thanks for looking over my shoulder as I reflect on this profound topic. I didn’t originate these ideas. CS Lewis’s The Problem of Pain and Josh McDowell’s Answers to Tough Questions both influenced my understanding.
Not Everyone Asks the Question
Our agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, and new age friends don’t believe in a single god who is good or who cares about humanity’s best interest. This post’s headline question is nonsensical to them. Most readers of this blog live in the United States and have some familiarity with Christian and Jewish worldviews. We may have unshakable convictions, but we cannot prove what we believe.
Seeking the Answer from a Friend
Recently, I spent two hours with my dear friend, a seminary graduate and a professor. I asked him how he prayed about the Middle East fighting. He said many people looking at the Christian and Jewish Scripture think God’s most important trait is His sovereignty. Other good people look at the same scripture and think God’s most important trait is His love.
My friend has trouble conceiving of an all-powerful God giving his creation free will when God understood that people would misbehave and harm others. My buddy puts faith in a loving God who is unable to block evil.
Can there be a better explanation?
You and I are in the minority. We may not be in the same minority. No single spiritual worldview is held by most of the earth’s population. Christianity has a plurality of believers. In other words, Christians are the largest minority. That does not mean Christianity is correct; it is merely that more people choose that view than any other.
Could an all-powerful God create humanity with free will, knowing that we would do cruel, mean, and stupid things? This perspective assumes that God didn’t want robots but deliberately created people with choice and the power to act in ways that seemed good to each one.
Can Parenting Be a Guide to Understanding?
Many parents winced when they understood their kids were considering dangerous choices. Parents warned their kids about the risks. Sometimes, the kid proceeded with the planned folly, and the result was loss or pain.
Some parents bailed out the foolish child. Other parents made the gut-wrenching choice not to clean up the mess but to respond with tough love. In other words, the miscreant had to bear a significant portion of the cost of their misdeed. Tough love is hard for everyone involved. Maturity sometimes is a fruit of tough love.
Almost everything worthwhile in life is hard. Maybe a powerful, loving God allowed free will with the hope and knowledge that some of his creation would recognize folly’s cost and instead choose forgiveness, grace, hope, humility, love, and mercy.
I asked a wise leader for his input on this post. One of his insights startled me. He said maybe evil is an opportunity to stretch, to show compassion, grace, and love to evil’s victims. Jesus told his believers to forgive and pray for enemies. Those notions far exceed my natural inclinations.
How do you reconcile evil in the world? I’d welcome your email, call, or a chance to have a cup of coffee.
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”